I can think of no better way to demonstrate the value then by sharing this Facebook post that one of our Artist’s father put up after one of the performances. His son, Broker, has Down syndrome. (And I have his permission to share this.)
“Dad, I want to get a jeep,” he said. This was Broker tonight as we drove over the causeway after his performance in Peter Pan Jr. Why do you want a Jeep, I asked him. “I can pick up Livia (his crush), Jack, Scott and Thomas (his favorite mentors). They can ride with me to home and go to the beach,” he said. And with that came the realization that my son has a preference for Jeeps and driving girls around in them. Oh boy. Broker, who I imagined might someday want to live on his own and do his own thing to some degree, now sees total independence for himself, today, at the age of 13. I swear this was not supposed to happen this soon. Where in the heck did these grown-up thoughts and grown-up designs come from? For much of this, I blame the magic of the Penguin Project and the performance of Peter Pan Jr. Broker, like many of the other artists performing the play this weekend, is gaining confidence and self-esteem. He’s learning to interact with his fellow artists and mentors. As God is my witness, I saw him tonight trying banter out on his crush. This is such a dramatic change. Before he got involved with the Penguin Project, Broker struggled relating to kids his age and slightly older. From what I could see, he didn’t have the confidence to engage. Now, after two seasons of theater with the Penguin project, he sees both the artists and mentors as his peers. He discerns no difference between the two roles. After all, everyone is on stage together, performing the same songs. And what a show they are putting on. To witness this performance, these artists giving their best, is to feel joy at its essence. And, working with such purity of an emotion like joy, unexpectedly, is quite something. These artists elicit something truly powerful from their audience. Trust me, by the time Hook meets his crook, the audience is theirs. Tonight, there were grown men crying, grown-freaking-men. Much like my own expectations about Broker’s independence, I think people seeing tonight’s performance were truly surprised how far these children had grown in their skill and ability. And, seeing such human spirit and determination up close and personal, without warning, even the hardest of hearts couldn’t hold back the floodgates. But this is the story of growing up, the story of Peter Pan. It’s been played out many times over. There are no plot-spoilers. Wendy decides to grow up, apparently Broker has too. If you choose to see this showing, by this cast, this weekend, you’re going to be moved. Prepare to carry around a bigger, more full heart. You’ll have to excuse me now, I have to figure out this Jeep and other grown-up designs Broker has.